Recently, I was faced with one of those decisions leaders of consulting companies hate to make – to pitch or not to pitch existing business. Usually, these decisions are dependent upon your determination of the skill set of your team, where the prospect fits in your business strategy, and, of course, whether the value is worth the effort.
The decision is more complicated when you are the incumbent. Careful attention needs to be paid to the success of the existing relationship. Were objectives met? Was there the right personal chemistry with the client? Did the client take our advice or treat us as simply as a supplier that executes programs? Is this a client we want to represent? What sort of financial hole would the loss of this client create?
These practical questions usually align to a fairly clear decision – but not always. That is when having an understanding of your deeply held values come to the rescue.
At the end of last year, just prior to the holidays, one of our clients issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) to canvass the landscape on agency capabilities. Unfortunately, issues of mutual respect had dogged the account despite us hitting benchmark goals out of the park.
My first instinct was to re-pitch with a new team altogether that was free of the history of the account but still aligned to the client’s changing needs. I was also encouraged by the fact that leadership changes had taken place with the client that I hoped would create a clean slate. Our program and team would have, I think, hit the sweet spot superbly.
Unfortunately, when it came time to pitch I found that my new team would be evaluated by the old client team – people we didn’t respect or trust. So I withdrew.
It was a lousy way to start the new year. Not only did it create an immediate financial hole, but I was worried that my pitch team would be upset at their wasted efforts over the holiday period.
Much to my surprise, my decision was roundly praised by staff. There was a sense of relief that money truly was not everything and when the company said it puts employees first – it meant it. I was truly humbled and a little embarrassed by the compliments because I felt the decision was the only decent thing to do. Had we won the business, the revenue would have been nice, but we would have lost the cultural underpinning of our company. And let’s face it: there were no guarantees the new team would fair any differently in this new relationship with the client.
As a post-script to this whole story, new business has quickly come along to fill the hole – proving once again that good people attract good business which creates good results.